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6 Ways to Cut Your Paid Search CPL with Conversation Intelligence

Blair Symes Senior Director of Product Marketing, Invoca

For most businesses, paid search is still one of the most important marketing channels. According to eMarketer, over 40% of digital ad spend in the US goes to paid search. Marketers will spend over $50 billion on search ads in the US alone this year — up from $40 billion in 2017.

The reason for paid search’s popularity is because, when done well, it can drive a strong return on ad spend. In a 2018 poll of senior marketers by Cohen and Company, 48% said Google search delivered the highest ROI of any digital channel — by far the most of any ad platform (Facebook was a distant second at 30%). 

But despite the potential for a high ROI, generating a great return on your search ad spend is far from guaranteed. It is an incredibly competitive channel. According to WordStream, the average CPA (cost per action) for Google search ads across all industries is $48.96, with many industries exceeding $70 a conversion:

Industry Average CPA (Paid Search)
Automotive $33.52
B2B $116.13
Consumer Services $90.70
E-Commerce $45.27
Education $72.70
Employment Services $48.04
Finance & Insurance $81.93
Health & Medical $87.13
Home Goods $87.13
Industrial Services $79.28
Legal $86.02
Real Estate $116.61
Technology $133.52
Travel & Hospitality $44.73

If your costs per conversion are far below your industry’s average, congratulations. You are most likely getting a great return on your search ad spend. But if you are looking to lower your CPL (cost per lead), and you have exhausted the usual levers (such as improving your Google Ads Quality Score, optimizing landing page content, and refining your keyword list), there is intelligence from a commonly untapped source — inbound phone calls to your business — that you can use to significantly reduce your paid search CPL. 

The Importance of Consumer Phone Calls to the Customer Journey

Not every search marketer thinks about phone calls the way they do online conversions. But consumer calls play a big role in the success of most businesses’ paid search campaigns. That’s because most searches take place on smartphones, and mobile searchers often call a business’s call center, store, dealership, branch, or other location to ask questions, book appointments, or place orders.

Google says that mobile searchers are 39% more likely to call a business, while analyst firm BIA/Kelsey estimates that mobile searches will drive 61 billion calls to businesses this year — a 113% increase from 2014.

For many industries, calls are the most popular and valuable conversion from search, regardless of the device consumers use to research a purchase. From automotive and home services to healthcare and financial services, many consumers won’t make a purchase or book an appointment without first calling and talking to the business or provider. These callers are also more likely to convert to customers. According to Forrester, callers convert 30% faster than web leads and spend on average 28% more.

What Is Conversation Intelligence?

When consumers call, brands and agencies can use intelligence from those phone conversations to improve their paid search campaign performance and generate more conversions at a lower CPL. If you aren’t currently leveraging insights from phone calls to improve paid search results, a conversation intelligence solution like DialogTech can help. 

Conversation intelligence combines the attribution of call tracking with AI-driven conversation analytics to provide meaningful and actionable marketing insights from callers. A conversation intelligence solution not only tells you what marketing source drove each call, who the caller is, and their location, it also closes the loop by analyzing the actual phone conversations to determine caller intent, lead score, product/service interest, conversion outcome, and more.

Sample of a DialogTech conversation intelligence report

Here are 6 strategies to consider to lower your paid search CPL with conversation intelligence, with some examples from DialogTech customers to help illustrate the benefits. 

1. Optimize for What Drives the Most High-Converting Calls

If your business values inbound phone calls, you should know exactly how your paid search campaigns are driving not just the most calls, but the most calls that convert to sales leads, opportunities, appointments, and customers. You can then have the data you need to optimize for the ads, keywords, landing page variations, devices, locations, and days/times driving the most sales leads — online and over the phone. It’s a strategy that can have an immediate impact on your CPL.

A great example of this is a leading US dental care provider with nearly 300 locations. They initially used DialogTech to attribute calls from paid search down to the keyword, but they weren’t using DialogTech’s AI to get accurate intelligence on the value of the conversations. Instead, they were using call duration as a way to estimate lead quality — with any call lasting over a minute being marked as a quality phone lead regardless of intent and outcome. 

However, once they started using DialogTech’s AI to analyze conversations, they had an accurate measurement of how their keywords were driving phone leads and appointments, regardless of the duration of the call. By passing accurate lead quality and call outcome metrics into Adobe Experience Cloud, they eliminated spend on keywords they previously thought were working (but really weren’t), thereby reducing their cost per patient by 24%.

Sample Adobe Analytics report containing DialogTech’s AI-driven KPI data from calls

Another example is Roy’s, an upscale restaurant chain. By using DialogTech to understand exactly what drives the most calls that resulted in reservations, they have a blueprint for how to optimize for what really drives the best conversions. For example, they saw that a high percentage of consumers on mobile devices were calling and booking reservations from paid search on Fridays between 2pm and 5pm. By using conversation insights to make smarter optimizations, they increased reservations by 434% and cut their cost per reservation by 38% in the first 7 months.

2. Compare the Value of Calls from Call Extensions vs. Landing Pages

Calls from paid search are usually generated in two ways: either 1) directly from the search ad via a call extension or 2) from consumers who click on the ad and call a number on your website. It’s important to understand not only how many of each type of call you generate, but also how calls from each source impact customer acquisition. Because the results can vary greatly depending on your business. 

For example, after using DialogTech to attribute and analyze calls that came directly from call extensions, one logistic company learned that 90% of callers from branded keywords were not potential customers, but rather job-seekers. This was not the audience the marketing team wanted to generate from their paid search spend — so they promptly removed the call extensions. 

However, a large national pest control company found just the opposite. Using DialogTech, they learned that calls from mobile ads with call extensions convert to customers twice as often as calls from their landing pages. They then shifted budget to ads with mobile call extensions, which helped decrease their cost per conversion and increase profitability by 12%.

3. Optimize Your Paid Search Spend to Drive New Callers

Marketers in many industries don’t want to waste their paid search budget generating calls from existing customers. Those calls are often support-related — and marketers would rather those calls came in via a non-paid channel like SEO. By understanding if your paid search keywords are generating new vs. repeat callers — and how often caller need to speak to your sales team or locations to convert — you can make smarter optimizations to drive more of the right types of callers and reduce your CPL.

Sample DialogTech report showing % of repeat callers, their lead quality, and conversion outcomes

For example, a dental support organization (DSO) uses DialogTech to analyze the calls they send to each location to determine if they are a new lead or repeat customer. The marketing team has selected a robust set of words and phrases that when spoken on a call indicate the nature of the call and whether it is from a new patient or existing client. According to their Director of Marketing: “Seeing that Google Ads unbranded keywords generate calls and appointments from new patients at a higher rate in a specific market, for example, is powerful data to improve our marketing and reduce our cost per call.” Using these insights from DialogTech, the DSO has been able to reduce their CPL by over 50%.

In another example, Sylvan Learning, a leading provider of personal tutoring and enrichment services, passes conversation intelligence from DialogTech into Google’s Search Ads 360 to optimize for the keywords driving the most new customer calls to their locations. It’s enabled them to increase leads by 44% while decreasing CPL by 12%.

4. Use Intelligence from Phone Conversations to Improve Audience Targeting

When consumers call your business, those conversations are a rich source of insights into that caller’s intent, urgency, product/service interest, and value. You can reduce your paid search CPL by using intelligence from those conversations to add callers to the most relevant audience segments. For example:

  • For unconverted callers whose conversation shows they are good leads, retarget them with a special offer for the product/service they called about. Consider broadening your keyword list for them to ensure your ads are visible when they search, since you already know they are the right type of lead.
  • For callers who converted to customers, put them into the most relevant upsell or cross-sell ad campaigns. You might also add them to lookalike campaigns to extend your reach and find new prospects resembling your best leads. 
  • For callers whose conversations show they aren’t sales leads, add them to your exclusion lists so you don’t serve them ads that aren’t relevant. You don’t want to keep wasting budget retargeting a website visitor who called for customer support, to inquire about a job, or to solicit your business — it can really drive up your CPL fast.

5. Use Intelligence on the Call Experience to Detect and Correct Issues

No matter how well you optimize your targeting, messaging, and bid strategies to generate more of the right type of caller, your ROI will suffer if your call centers or locations aren’t converting them to leads and customers. When it comes to the call experience, however, marketers may not realize there is even a problem, even though there often is. A DialogTech study found that 1 in 5 calls from paid search go unanswered. That means that many callers that could be great leads are hanging up or being sent to voicemail, resulting in wasted PPC spend. 

You can use conversation intelligence reports to see what percentage of calls from paid search to your business hang up or go to voicemail. You can then diagnose the reason why and make corrections to improve your ROI and reduce CPL.
Report - CX issues by location

Sample DialogTech report showing % of calls with CX issues by location

For example, the marketing team at one of the nation’s leading appliance repair providers uses DialogTech to get insights into the caller experience their call center provides. By examining the data, they found that a high percentage of callers from paid search interacting with their call center’s IVR were abandoning their call prior to speaking with an agent. It turns out the IVR process was too long and confusing to navigate. When the marketing team realized this, they shortened the IVR, resulting in a rapid 50% decrease in abandoned calls (lost opportunities) and a 30% increase in sales leads, as callers were being connected with agents faster. 

6. Detect and Eliminate Spam Calls from Your PPC Campaigns  

Robo-spam calls are not just a problem for consumers. They also impact businesses, too. Not only are they a nuisance for your call center agents or locations answering calls, they can wreck your paid search CPL if you aren’t careful. You can use conversation intelligence reports to understand what marketing channels are generating spam to your business. You can then take action to correct the problem and keep spam from ruining your CPL. 

For example, a consumer services provider came to DialogTech because they were getting inundated with spam call — they estimated nearly 50% of all calls to their locations were spam. By using conversation intelligence from DialogTech, they were able to isolate the channels, campaigns, and ads driving spam calls and block them. They even had Google credit back the spend that had been the result of fraudulent spam calls. 

What Intelligence from Conversations Are You Missing?

If phone calls are important to your business, having the right intelligence from those conversations can help you reduce your paid search CPL and optimize for what drives the best results — both online and over the phone. Download our ebook, The 10 Call Analytics Reports That Will Change Your Marketing, to see more examples of reports you can use to reduce your CPL from paid search and other marketing channels. 

Download our ebook, The 10 Call Analytics Reports That Will Change Your Marketing, to see more examples of reports you can use to reduce your CPL from paid search and other marketing channels. 

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